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Making a Difference
I am a breast surgeon caring mainly for breast cancer patients, those who are at increased risk for breast cancer and those who have benign breast disease. I love working with my hands so the operating room is a delight for me. I have an appointment at the University of Rochester and teach medical students rotating at Rochester General Hospital (RGH). I also teach the physicians’ assistants at Rochester Institute of Technology.
I have made several trips to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota with InterVol which is an RGH based organization collecting and distributing medical supplies as well as sending teams to underserved areas. RGH is no longer sending teams to the Dakotas, but during my last visit I met one of the two Medicine men for this reservation of 20,000. He asked us not to forget them. I continue to send recovery material every two months to the tribal alcohol and chemical dependency program and remember them in daily prayer.
Serving the underserved is a constant thread for me. Since 1993, I have been involved in what was initially called the Women’s Breast Health Partnership. This is a consortium of radiology groups in Rochester, hospitals, Providers, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, MVP, State of New York, Monroe County Health Department, The Wilmot Cancer Center, the Lipson Cancer Center, the Pluta Cancer Center, Monroe County Medical Society, The American Cancer Association, Breast Cancer Coalition and Gilda’s Club. The purpose is to provide free mammograms and clinical breast exams to uninsured women. These would be the “working” poor who have jobs with no benefits and are ineligible for Medicaid. We serve around 1700 new women each year. The new name is Cancer Prevention Services since it now involves other cancers and men.
Because I wear two hats, I am sometimes invited to participate in various religious services. I have prepared and led funeral services for patients who had no church affiliation. I have also participated in patients’ weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. Recently, one of our young surgeons became extremely ill traveling to New York City. He was on life support for four days. My staff asked me to spontaneously lead a prayer service and 25 appeared on very short notice. I am happy to report that this young man returned to work part time last week.
To return to my primary mission, I really love my patients and my staff. Daily I think I have the best job. I freely share that I am an 11 year breast cancer survivor. I hope my patients realize they can return to a full life. The majority of women (about 88%) with this diagnosis live their normal lifespan. The diagnosis may put certain things in perspective. For me it means to seize every opportunity for a fully alive life. This diagnosis can be a bump in the road for several months or even years. However, I and my patients only have to deal with it one day at a time with the help of others and with the hand of God.